In our settings we try to create a warm family feel where we all value each other and part of the way we do this is by having mixed aged groups. Although our under two's have their own base room they join the older children for meal times, stories, singing, movement sessions and going for walks.
Due to children starting school in the UK when they are four years old we mix our age groups slightly differently to a typical Montessori setting. Our older group is for children aged two to four years rather than the usual three to six. This still provides a three year age grouping where children can truly learn from each other.
Our children show great patience when working with younger children, helping and encouraging them. They learn compassion as they empathise when younger children are struggling, distressed or unsure.
The children learn culturally how to behave in our settings from each other such as following our ground rules. They remind each other we need to use our walking feet, or to carry scissors safely and they listen to each other. It is often easier to learn a new skill or social expectation from a fellow child than an adult. An adult often complicates how tasks can be completed with too much language and movement.
A child's self confidence and self esteem develops as they realise younger children are looking up to them, that they admire them and are trying to copy them. Often an older child is delighted when a younger peer manages a new task and delights in the accomplishment with them.
In the wider world we are not segregated by age so why in our nurseries and our schools. Should we not be creating communities which support children, encourage compassion, understanding and respect without fear of failure as everyone is working at their own ability level?